Connecticut paid Sandy aid to repair multimillion-dollar homes

State paid $6.4M in federal aid to owners of 62 homes worth $1M or more

<em>A flooded house in an oceanside community in New England following Superstorm Sandy (iStock)</em>
A flooded house in an oceanside community in New England following Superstorm Sandy (iStock)

Millions of dollars in funds from a federal program designed to help low-income homeowners after Superstorm Sandy were doled out to dozens of people with expensive homes in some of the most affluent towns in Connecticut, Politico reported.

Unlike New Jersey, Connecticut put no income threshold on aid eligibility from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development following the devastating storm that caused billions of dollars of damage along the East Coast.

That resulted in the owners of 62 homes worth more than $1 million on the Gold Coast — which has many of the wealthiest towns in the state — receiving 15 percent, $6.4 million, of the $44 million that HUD paid out for home repairs in Connecticut, the outlet reported.

Ten of the 62 homes were located in Greenwich and Darien. One Darien resident of a $5.5 million waterfront home who received $150,000 in federal aid for home repair, Politico said.

New Jersey, on the other hand, designated home-repair aid for households with incomes below $250,000.

The Connecticut payments were the result of a major policy shift in 2013, when HUD changed its regulations in 2013 to allow states to provide home-repair aid to wealthy homeowners. The payments, Politico noted, were limited to Hurricane Sandy victims, but other states have since received approval to reimburse wealthy homeowners following other major disasters.

The issue, according to some experts, is one of fairness — whether aid is being distributed to households that need it most, particularly in light of storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change.

“It really stinks,” former HUD analyst Carlos Martín, an expert on disaster aid, told the outlet. “That’s not who the disaster recovery program is intended to serve.”

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But Connecticut’s former housing commissioner said the state didn’t do anything wrong, according to CT Insider.

“Connecticut followed all of the federal regulations,” Evonne Klein, who left Connecticut’s housing department in 2019, told the outlet. “The program that Connecticut developed was based on federal guidelines, and we did not veer off.”

Klein said lower-income households received priority over wealthy homeowners, who only received aid if there were leftover funds.

“Folks on the upper end of the income scale were the last to receive any kind of funding,” she told CT Insider.. “The majority of the funding went to people in lower income brackets.”

But others said the payments to wealthy households raises questions over the effectiveness of Connecticut’s outreach to lower-income areas.

Some, however, said they were not shocked at the revelations.

“That’s the way it goes,” MaryAnn Provey, a Bridgeport resident and former president of a cooperative, told Politico. “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, especially in a situation like this.”

— Ted Glanzer